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Acupuncture: How It Helps With Cancer Treatments

While acupuncture has been around for millennia, the form of acupuncture practiced today is mainly based on a standardized system which evolved in China around 50 years ago.  I do recommend acupuncture for  people going through cancer treatments and here is why.

How Acupuncture Works – the Simple Explanation

Acupuncture treatment involves the stimulation of defined points on the body using tiny, ultra-thin needles (or sometimes electricity).  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”), the surface of the human body and  its internal organs are thought to be connected by meridians through which “qi” (pronounced “chee”), or energy, flows.

In TCM, when the flow of qi is blocked, it is thought that pain and disease soon follow.  Acupuncture is a complex subject but primarily acupuncture works by inserting the special ultra-thin needles into the specific points on the surface of the body (“acupoints”) along the meridians where qi is blocked, thus restoring the flow of qi.

Acupuncture Studies Show Its Effectiveness for Breast Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Acupuncture has been one of the most studied forms of complementary medicine.  Especially exciting are some of the studies coming in that show its usefulness for breast cancer patients.

Nausea: Several studies have proven that acupuncture is quite effective in controlling chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and post-surgical nausea.

Hot Flashes: In another study, it was demonstrated that acupuncture is helpful for relieving post-menopausal hot flashes.

Hormone Inhibiting Drugs – Joint Pain: Many breast cancer survivors are treated with drugs known as aromatase inhibitors to help prevent recurrence, but a common side effect of these drugs is joint pain and stiffness. Several studies have found that acupuncture is quite effective in reducing these side effects, thereby allowing the drug regimen to be continued.

Neuropathy:  Acupuncture can reduce the nerve pain, numbness and tingling resulting from chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). This disorder can be extremely frustrating to those who suffer from it and knowing that acupuncture – properly administered – can help is huge.

Lymphedema: Several studies have indicated that lymphedema resulting from removal of lymph nodes can be assisted by acupuncture.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

I often get asked if acupuncture hurts.  I have to say (for the most part) NO, especially not when the needles are inserted.  You can feel it, of course, but it’s not uncomfortable.  Once in awhile, one of the points might ache a little when the needle is first inserted, especially if the qi is particularly blocked, but that eases off quickly usually.

I went to a Chinese Medicine doctor during the entire 6 months of my chemotherapy treatment – she gave me herbs that helped strengthen my immune system, and I often got acupuncture to help with energy levels.  Having an acupuncture treatment is ultra-relaxing, you’re generally laying in a comfortable position for about 45 minutes and falling asleep is quite common.  It’s a nice experience, nothing to fear.

Acupuncture treatments are generally affordable and are often covered by health insurance policies.

For a good look at all of the most recent research on acupuncture and breast cancer, click this link:

2018 Update – All New Research:

Effect of Acupuncture on Aromatase Inhibitor-induced Arthralgia in Patients with Breast Cancer: a Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials –

Electrothermal Acupuncture in the Prevention and Treatment of Chemotherapy-induced Nausea and Vomiting: a Randomized Controlled Trial –

The Effect of Acupuncture on Chemotherapy-associated Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Gastric Cancer –

Management of Menopause Symptoms with Acupuncture: An Umbrella Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis –

Treatment of Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy in Integrative Oncology: A Survey of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Practitioners –

Acupuncture and Reflexology for Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy in Breast Cancer –

Treatment of Lymphedema with Saam Acupuncture in Patients with Breast Cancer: A Pilot Study –

Effects of Warm Acupuncture on Breast Cancer–related Chronic Lymphedema: a Randomized Controlled Trial –

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